Archive for Monday, October 2, 2006

Wanted: Feedback on green project

ECO2 plan would preserve open space during development

October 2, 2006


RoxAnne Miller, executive director of the Lawrence-based Kansas Land Trust, has long hoped to see the day when Douglas County environmentalists and industrialists don't regularly butt heads.

Now, though, she thinks there's a lot more reason to be hopeful.

"I think there are a lot of people right now who believe we have a real window of opportunity," Miller said.

The reason for the optimism is the completion of a six-year effort by environmentalists and business leaders who have been working on a plan, called ECO2, to guide how new industrial development and the preservation of critical pieces of open space can go hand in hand.

The group, which was appointed by the Douglas County Commission, has scheduled a series of public meetings this month to get comment on the plan before it is submitted to Lawrence city commissioners and county commissioners for possible adoption.

The major idea behind the ECO2 (pronounced Eco squared) plan is that every time the community invests money to create new industrial parks, it also will invest a corresponding amount to preserve open space in the county.

"It really creates more than just a promise that an investment in open space will happen, it creates a process to help ensure that it will," said Sandra Shaw, chairwoman of the ECO2 committee.

Speak up

A series of public meetings to explain the importance of the ECO2 plan are scheduled this month in several communities: ¢ 7 p.m. Thursday, Douglas County Extension Office, 2110 Harper St. ¢ 7 p.m. Oct. 9, Baldwin City Public Library, Baldwin ¢ 7 a.m. Oct. 12, Bert Nash Center, 200 Maine ¢ 7 p.m. Oct. 12, Eudora Township Hall, Eudora ¢ 7 p.m. Oct. 19, Lecompton Community Building, Lecompton

Less political

Miller and other committee members are hopeful the idea will gain favor with preservationists and the business community because members from each sector have been serving on the county-appointed ECO2 committee.

"I think the process of creating the plan already has done a lot to bring the community together," Miller said. "People who have participated in heated debates on past projects sat down at the same table and participated in putting this plan together. And they now enjoy working together. It is not that they can just tolerate each other; they actually enjoy working together."

The plan is being sold to the business community as a way to help ensure that proposals for new business and industrial parks won't get bogged down by environmentalists or preservationists who think the site is inappropriate for development.

"There have been conflicts in the past over how to use land," said Larry McElwain, an owner of Warren-McElwain Mortuary and a past chairman of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. "We're hoping that this plan can take some of the politics out of planning."

Creating criteria

The plan itself is a bit unique in that it doesn't have maps or other documents showing where the community ought to build business parks in the future. It also doesn't list what areas of the county are most in need of being protected from development.

Instead, the plan creates a set of criteria that leaders would use to determine if a piece of ground is suitable for industrial development. Those criteria include access to an interstate, U.S. or state highway; a location that is outside the 100-year flood plain and is at least 100 acres in size; and a topography that has only a slight slope to allow for development.

The plan also spells out criteria for how leaders would decide on which pieces of open space they would purchase for preservation. The plan states that the land must fall into one of several categories before it could even be considered to be included in a public open space program. Those categories include lands well-suited for trails, native prairies, mature forests, wetlands, habitat for protected species, prime agricultural grounds of 10 acres or more, and sites deemed scenic lands or historical sites.

The plan also states that any landowner who doesn't want to participate in either an open space project or an industrial park project will not be forced to do so. The plan says eminent domain shouldn't be used for either type of project.

The linchpin of the plan is a funding formula that would be used anytime an industrial park project is undertaken by the public. For every $20 million in public investment in business parks, the plan calls for $5 million in public money for open space projects. That ratio is being proposed because research by the committee has found that the public recoups - through land sales and fees - all but about $5 million of every $20 million in industrial park investments.

Possible projects

The actual plan doesn't list any specific projects that the city and county could undertake if it adopted ECO2. But the Lawrence-Douglas County Economic Development Board and the ECO2 committee last year recommended that by 2015 the community would need to add at least one industrial park - either on the vacant Farmland Industries fertilizer plant along Kansas Highway 10 or near the Lawrence Municipal Airport in North Lawrence.

The two groups also recommended that $5 million of public funding be spent on open space projects. The top four projects recommended for funding were a Kansas River pedestrian bridge that would be part of a trail system connecting the Kaw with the Wakarusa River; the preservation of the Black Jack Battlefield near Baldwin; preservation of 100 acres of high-quality forest land known as the Baldwin Woods between Lawrence and Baldwin; and the preservation of native prairies in Douglas County.

City and county commissioners, though, never acted on the recommendations. The recommendations did not come with any specific suggestions on how to fund the $25 million in public funding that would be needed for the open space and industrial projects.

The ECO2 plan also doesn't make specific funding recommendations. Instead it lists options for elected officials to consider. Those range from property and sales taxes to impact fees and a mortgage registration tax.


cowboy 11 years, 6 months ago

just plain dumb !increase the cost and complexity of each project while paying a bribe to get you project done in douglas county. Can you spell no development squared.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 6 months ago

Your math isn't new, bowhunter, it's just baseless and bad.

cutny 11 years, 6 months ago

Gosh lunacy_detector, once again, you come as extremely well informed. Did you even read the article?

Quigebo 11 years, 6 months ago

Mr Bowhunter99,

The Baker Wetlands are actually wetlands naturally. They were drained so that they could be used for agricultural production and later returned to a more natural state. What do you think is the "normal state" that you propose returning the wetlands to, the one that you say will "help Lawrence grow?"

I realize that this is not a SLT article, but poorly informed, vocal people like Mr Bowhunter99 only confuse the issues.

jafs 11 years, 6 months ago

I would like to see Lawrence invest only in development which will bring full-time jobs with benefits. We really have no need for more part-time jobs. If that were done, perhaps we wouldn't need to invest in preservation efforts. And, I completely agree that the city is out-of-control with spending taxpayer dollars.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 6 months ago

This article has absolutely nothing to do with the SLT, but repetition of the same old tired, and still wrong, lines will never justify building the SLT through the Haskell Wetlands, which have been wetlands for thousands of years. Relatively recent attempts to drain them don't change that.

lunacydetector 11 years, 6 months ago

actually cutny, at one time a few years ago, i went to a website called it has almost every non-profit organization in the nation, including their tax returns. within the tax returns were names of the 'players' involved in the non-profits. in prior years before ECO2 was proposed, in some of these non-profit environmental causes were names of some of the folks involved. these same folks also happened to be involved in keeping out the SLT. there used to be a poster on the other now defunct LJW website i supplied this information to as he was against ECO2 and he was having an online debate with a county commissioner, and the thing i got out of reading all of this is there was no denial from the county commissioner when questioned. 2+2 = 4

so is it safe to question that some of the people involved in ECO2 are also some of the same people who have tried to stop the SLT? yes, it is.

no misinformation coming from ME.

lunacydetector 11 years, 6 months ago

...weren't some of the environmental people involved in fighting the South Lawrence Trafficway for so many years?

davisnin 11 years, 6 months ago

Go SLT!! Environmental destruction for environmental destruction's sake. Oh and so westies can get back to their million dollar homes a bit faster and avoid pesky Lawrence.

lunacydetector 11 years, 6 months ago

i guess the question REALLY is: if ECO2 got approved and the environmentalists got their millions, will lawrence finally be able to build the SLT on the 32nd street alignment without opposition? nobody seems to be able to answer THAT big question.

KsTwister 11 years, 6 months ago

"For every $20 million in public investment in business parks, the plan calls for $5 million in public money for open space projects."

Just once I wish someone would tell Lawrence taxpayers that more money is not needed from them.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 6 months ago

The $5 million figure arose from the calculation that $25 million could be generated from a $20 million investment in industrial lands.

That doesn't even come close to translating into a 25% increase in everyone's property taxes.

But I take it back. Your math isn't bad-- it's non-existent.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

jafs 11 years, 6 months ago

Just a comment on the $ involved. The article said that $5 million was chosen because the city estimated it could recover all but $5 million of the cost of new business developments. I don't know if this is true, but that's where that number came from.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 6 months ago

I clearly identify the bus I ride on: It's THIS bus, Marion. And like all buses, there are some passengers I find less than reasonable or congenial, but it's not in my power to kick you off.

Besides, you are sort of entertaining in your own belligerent and overbearing way.

davisnin 11 years, 6 months ago

Things not labeled "environmentally friendly" may not work as well, fine, I'm sorry your deodorant didn't give you that "24-hour maximum protection" you were looking for. But you need to start weighing actual costs and stop ignoring the economic value of limited natural resources. Its that kind of thinking that will leave us all starving once the Ogallala dries up. At least Monsanto will be able to sell more fertilizer. And how does it help Lawrence to grow to give easier access to the west side? There is not a chance in hell that any kind of large scale commercial development will be allowed to go in amongst the 400,000 dollar housing. Merely more 400,000 dollar housing that will require yet more sewer infrastructure and cause more rolling brownouts in the hot months. And the man made dikes are there to make up for the natural boundaries we destroyed.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 6 months ago

"And the man made dikes are there to make up for the natural boundaries we destroyed."

They're also there so that the roads that go through there aren't flooded. And the roads really are man-made.

KsTwister 11 years, 6 months ago

After carefull consideration I have decided that I am not paying for this,if the city wants these places they can sell the golf course or budget better than they have been up to this point. Enough already.

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